Ice wine is a dessert wine – a sweet wine, as the majority of dessert wines are – made from grapes frozen on their vine in their natural environment.
Ice wines are difficult to make as the grapes require precise cooperation from the weather immediately following the harvesting season for other wine grapes. Therefore, most successfully made Ice Wines will be made in regions of such places like Germany and Canada where temperatures are more likely to cooperate when wine makers need them to do so.
Grapes used to make Ice Wine are those grapes left on their vine after the harvest and allowed to continue to ripen. During that post-harvest time wine makers are hoping and praying for a freeze, after which, the grapes are quickly harvested and manufactured into wine like any other wine. As the grape freezes on a vine, its water freezes but the sugars don’t freeze, allowing a more concentrated grape “must” to be pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wine. When the grape’s water freezes, the “meat” of the grape dehydrates, causing the sugars to concentrate and the fruit flavors to become stronger. The complex structure of Ice Wine grapes give this wine a refreshing sweet flavor that is balanced or offsetby high acidity.
Naturally madeIce wines need a thorough freeze (for Canada by lawat least −8°C (or 17 °F)and for Germany at least −7 °C (or 19 °F), to occur after the wine grapes ripen, which means the grapes could remain on their vine several months after the normal harvesting season. If the freeze doesn’t come quickly, the grapes coulddevelop noble rot and a winemaker will lose the crop. If a freezing is too harsh, juice cannot be extracted from the grape. (In fact, it is said that the Vineland Winery of Ontario broke a pneumatic press while pressing frozen grapes that were frozen too hard at a temperature that was about −20 °C).And the longerripened grapes stay on their vine, the more is lost to dropped fruit and wild animals. Because the grape has to be pressed when still frozen, grape pickers work at the dark of night or early morning, harvesting grapes in a few short hours, while other cellar workers work within unheated and icy areas to produce the Ice Wine.
Ice wines were first made in Germany (called Eiswein in German) in the late 1700’s. Since that time there have been many innovations made in the Ice Wine industry, such as artificially freezing the grapes, but authentic Ice Wine is made from naturally frozenvine grapes. Because of the unpredictability of Ice Wine crops due to the weather and the real possibility that the grapes could rot before they freeze causing lower yields of healthy grapes, along with the labor-intensiveproduction process, Ice Wineswill beconsiderably more steeply priced than your average table wine. As a result, Ice Winewillbe most often found in a half-bottle (375-ml) anda smaller 200-ml bottle. Wineries sometimes package 200 ml or 50 ml-bottles in gift packages.
Ice Wine Production Regions
Germany and Canada are the world’s largest producers of Ice Wines, with Canada being the largest producer. Around 75 percent of Ice Wine made in Canada is from Ontario.In much smaller quantities it is also made in made in the United States, Sweden, Slovenia, New Zealand, Luxembourg, Italy, Israel, Hungary, Chine, France, Czech Republic, Croatia, Austria and Australia.Germany’s Eiswein vintages have become rarer than what was produced there in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Wine makers cite climate change as the reason for the decrease in production. But Canadian Icewines are booming stronger than ever.
Canada, most particularly on Niagara Peninsula, steadilyexperiences freezingwinters,making it the largest world-wide producer of Icewines.Canadian Icewines are currently manufactured in all its grape growing provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. The VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) regulates Canada’s Icewines, and an Icewine’s grape sugar level must measures35 percent or more or they cannot be used on a wine labeled “Icewine”, a considerably higher sugar levelthan that allowed in Germany’s Eiswein.
Having begun producing Ice Wine in 1983, the Inniskillin Winery is deemed the most well-known Canadian producer of Icewines and was the Canadian winery first to nab a significant international award for its entry into the 1991 Vinexpo of France: the Grand Prix d’Honneur. The wineries entry was a Vidal Icewine of 1989 vintage.Pillitteri Estates has emerged as the world-wide largest producer of estate Icewines, while in November of 2006 Canada’s Royal DeMaria issued 5 cases of a Chardonnay Icewine that went for the half-bottle priceof $30,000 (C), the highest priced Icewine in the world.
How to Serve an Ice Wine
Ice wine is always served fully chilled, but not freezing – just place the Ice Wine in the refrigerator for a few hours before you plan on serving it. While an Ice Wine can stand on its own as a satisfying dessert, it can also be served along with a dessert. Like any other wine type, some Ice Wines pair better with certain foods, dependentupon the grape varietal.
Due to the sweetness of the wine, it goes well with creamier, sweet desserts, like a mousse. It’s also best served with dessert that follows either a lighter meal vs. a heavier entree such as steak or if there is a lengthy break between dessert and dinner.
It’s always nice to have a few suggestions of wine and food pairings, and you might find the following ideas helpful.
Vidal Ice Wine Pairings
Ice Wines made from the Vidal grape are known for their honey-like flavors and aromas of peach, tangerine, pineapple and apricot.Vidal aged in oak has additional overtones that are rich in vanilla, freshly baked bread and almonds. AVidal Ice Wine pairs beautifully with summer berries in cream, raspberry mousse, chocolate biscuits, or an Anjou pear tart.
Riesling Ice Wine Pairings
Ice Wines made from the Riesling grape are known for theirmineral notes as well as for bright orange and citrus flavors and acidity. A Riesling Ice Wine pairs nicely with a wide range of decadent, creamy textures and tastes, from a crème brulée to a foie gras.
Cabernet Franc Ice Wine Pairings
Ice Wines made from the Cabernet Franc grapeare known for their classic aromatics reminiscent of freshly baked rhubarb and strawberry pie balanced with notes of spice. A Cabernet Franc Ice Wine pairs up nicely with baked desserts featuring fresh strawberries or served with a dollop of crème fraîche. Its spicy quality also makes it a great candidate for pairings with desserts featuring dark chocolate or hazelnuts.
Ice Wine Purchasing Suggestions
If you’d like to try some Ice Wines check out the following:
- 2007 Inniskillin Niagara Peninsula Vidal Ice Wine 375 mL (Half Bottle) – WE (Wine Enthusiasts) Rating: 90
- Inniskillin Oak-aged Vidal Icewine (375ML half-bottle) 2006 – WE 92
- 2007 Inniskillin Riesling Icewine Niagara Peninsula 375 mL (Half Bottle)
- 2007 Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 750 ml (Full Bottle)
Ice Wines can be considered a delicacy, difficult to make and a treasure to taste knowing what great measures it takes to produce it. Enjoy and savor your Ice Wine!